The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”
This episode is recounted only in this gospel. The penitent sinner receives salvation through the crucified Jesus. Jesus’ words to the penitent thief reveal Luke’s understanding that the destiny of the Christian is “to be with Jesus.”
23:38 an inscription: According to Roman practice, criminals displayed a sign inscribed with the charges brought against them. Jesus’ placard was written in three languages (Jn 19:20).
23:42 remember me: The penitent thief may have sneered at Jesus earlier (Mk 15:32). His conversion at the final hour is now manifest by his insight: he does not see Jesus’ death as his demise, but looks forward to the coming of his royal kingdom. The promise of “Paradise” (Lk 23:43) is generously out of proportion to the man’s simple request (CCC 1021).
The 1920s were marked by the rise of secularism, in which people increasingly lived their lives as if God did not exist. Dictatorships flourished and many people were taken in by these earthly leaders. Many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt the authority and existence of Christ and to question the relevancy of the Church. Pope Pius XI inaugurated the “Feast of Christ the King” in 1925 as a response to the conditions on the world. It was the hope that in celebrating the kingship of Christ over all humanity, that the declining respect for Christ and the Church would be abated.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It’s almost 100 years later and conditions in many ways have worsened. Research conducted by PEW indicates that the largest and fastest growing religious denomination in North America are the ‘nones.’ These are individuals who not only distance themselves from any organized religion, but generally to not ascribe to a belief in the Christian God. For many in this group God is simply not relevant in their life.
It is amazing how much the enlightenment of humankind has drawn us further away from God and deeper into becoming the ‘self-gods’ that dominate our narcissistic culture and deny God’s existence or relevancy. We should be affirmed through the today’s Gospel reading that nothing will change the movement of ‘nones’ except love.
No one alone can change this reality. But that is not what the Lord is asking of any believer. He is simply asking us to be his light of love to the world. It is this light that will drive out the darkness that pervades the depths of loneliness and emptiness that is the world devoid God. The truth is that God is more relevant now than ever.
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.
 Mitch, Curtis. “Introduction to the Gospels.” In The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010.